Governor to Call for Special Session!

Jun 7, 2016 by


Tell your representatives to support equitable and adequate funding according to the Constitution of Kansas.

Topeka- Governor Brownback has announced that he will call a special session of the legislature sometime this month. While he announced that “I will do everything I can to keep this session focused on education,” he also used his announcement to again pass the buck and blame the Court for the legislature’s failure.

“After discussion with Legislative Leadership, I have decided to call a special session to keep Kansas schools open, despite the Court’s threat to close them. It is distressing that the Kansas Supreme Court has put the schools and legislature of Kansas in this position over less than 1 percent of school funding.

Let’s start by making two things clear. First, we are not, as the Governor and his allies continue to say, talking about 1% of school funding. At issue is equity in the LOB which accounts for about 25% of school funding. This is not a minor issue and should not be characterized as such. 

Secondly, the Court has not threatened to close schools. The Court simply did its job in hearing and deciding upon a constitutional question brought to it by citizens. Courts do not go out seeking things upon which to rule. They do not act unless citizens bring an issue before them. That’s exactly what happened in this case and to imply that the Court somehow actively sought a school finance case is political spin at its finest and most cynical.

The reality is that a legislative majority, blindly following Governor Brownback in enacting reckless and unfair tax policy, has created a situation where the state has given away its ability to fund vital state services including education. In reacting to the predictable results of their own policy, the Governor and his legislative allies repealed a constitutionally sound school finance system and replaced it with an inequitable block grant scheme. The Court has directed the legislature to resolve the equity issue by June 30. If not, there will be no option but to prohibit the distribution of state funds in an unconstitutional school finance system. 

The question of whether or not schools will open rests not on the Court but on the Legislature’s actions. It is the responsibility of the Legislature under the Constitution of the State of Kansas to “make suitable provision for finance of the educational interests of the state.” 

The Legislature has an obligation to ensure that every student receives a quality education regardless of zip code. Since schools are funded partly through a “local option budget,” it is incumbent upon the legislature to ensure that every community is able to provide LOB funding with similar tax effort. The Court found that the Legislature, in repealing the constitutionally sound school finance system and replacing it with block grants, made the LOB inequitable. This is the issue before the legislature. It is generally believed that it would cost the state approximately $40 million to solve the issue. 

Unfortunately, thanks to the failed tax policy of Governor Brownback and his legislative allies, the state has repeatedly come up short of expectations in revenue collection. In May alone, state revenue collections were nearly $76 million below expectations. Brownback’s “trickle-down” tax policy has resulted in a collapse in state revenue of hundreds of millions of dollars. As a result, the highway program, KPERS, early childhood programs, services to those with disabilities, K-12 and higher education have suffered in attempts to balance the state budget.

During this special legislative session, lawmakers must focus with laser-sharp intensity on one issue and one alone – restoring equity to the LOB. Going forward, in order to restore fiscal stability to the state and to provide for all the services upon which Kansas citizens depend, future legislatures must look to adopting tax policy that is fair to all and provides the revenue necessary to serve the people.


-Equity LOB accounts for 25% of school funding.

-The Supreme Court did its job under the Constitution.

-Whether or not schools open is dependent upon action by the Legislature.

-The Legislature should focus squarely on funding during the special session.

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Bathroom Use; CLEP Credit; Equity Bills; In-State Tuition

Mar 17, 2016 by

New Bill Introduction in Senate

Just up this afternoon is a Senate Bill – SB 513 – “creating the student physical privacy act.” Word under the dome is that this bill comes from Senator Mary Pilcher-Cook (R-Shawnee). It would prohibit a student from using a restroom for a gender other than that identified at the student’s birth.

The bill would prohibit policies allowing transgendered students from using the restroom facilities of the gender with which they identify. Alternative facilities may be made available to transgendered students. The bill would also give a private cause of action against the school if that student should encounter a student of the opposite gender in a facility provided for his/her gender if the school “gave such person of the opposite sex permission to use facilities designated for use by such student’s sex” or the school “failed to take reasonable steps to prohibit such person of the opposite sex from using facilities designated for use by such student’s sex.”

Currently, policy decisions on the use of such facilities are left to the wisdom of locally elected school boards in consultation with teachers, counselors, administrators, and parents.

House Ed Committee Advances CLEP Bill

The House Education Committee today held a hearing on SB 388, requiring the State Board of Regents to adopt a policy on awarding credit hours based on CLEP test results. The bill would standardize the granting of credit for performance on a CLEP examination such that the credits could easily transfer among Kansas higher education institutions.

The bill was passed out of committee and now goes to the full House for consideration.

Working the Equity Bills

The House Appropriations today worked HB 2731, the Ryckman bill dealing with school finance equity in response to the Supreme Court decision. It became clear very quickly that the bill did not have enough support in the Committee to move forward.

Most of the negative comments were directed more to the Court than to the provisions of the bill itself. One legislator even asserted that the Court had no understanding of either school finance or equity.

Reps. Jerry Henry (D-Cummings), Sidney Carlin (D-Manhattan), and Barbara Ballard (D-Lawrence) tried to impress upon their colleagues that the Court did not choose to weigh in, there was a lawsuit that they were required to hear, that the Court relied on a study commissioned, paid for, and adopted by the Legislature as the only evidence brought forth, and that the demands on schools have grown tremendously over the years and are more costly.

In the end, Ryckman chose not to put the bill to a vote.

In the Senate Ways and Means Committee, SB 512, the Masterson bill dealing with school finance equity was quickly passed out of committee and has been sent on to the full Senate for consideration.

Both bills return to the previous equity formula (before block grants) and sweep the $17 million out of the extraordinary needs fund. The balance of the needed money is new spending in the Ryckman bill and is redistributed from school districts in the Masterson bill.

On the Floors Today

House Bill 2700 was scheduled for debate on the House floor today but was pulled and returned to the Pensions committee. We suspect it will be placed in another bill and sent back for reconsideration. This is likely an effort to put the bill in a position that it can be quickly voted on by both chambers and sent to the Governor.

No other bills we are tracking were on the floor for debate today.

As we write this the Senate is still in deep debate on the second bill of nine on their debate calendar today. And the first bill was passed over after a long debate while they wait on another amendment to come forward.

We are waiting for the debate on the fifth bill, HB 2567 which deals with tuition rates for military personnel. It is rumored that there will be an attempt to pass an amendment that would repeal in-state tuition to the children of undocumented workers.

We will report on this tomorrow.


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Sex, Equity, Bonding, and Procurement…Lots Going On Under the Dome!

Mar 16, 2016 by

House Passes Over Sex Ed Bill for Today

HB 2199, the bill requiring that human sexuality education be offered only on an “opt-in” basis, was up for debate today on the House floor. After debating three other bills, a motion was made to rise and report meaning that the bill was not debated today. It remains on the calendar and is available for debate later.

Under current law, local school boards can make a determination whether to offer human sexuality education on an opt-in or opt-out basis depending on their own community. This bill would disallow the opt-out option.

There is general agreement that opt-in programs have lower participation than opt-out. Many worry that without human sexuality education, some students will not get age appropriate education. As a result, it is possible that there could be an increase in sexually transmitted diseases and teen pregnancies.

The bill went further in that it would prohibit a school district from exposing any child who had not opted in to the program to any program materials. This provision stemmed from a parent complaint in the Shawnee Mission School District. One child photographed a controversial poster in a classroom that was part of the adopted human sexuality program.

If passed as is, the district would have to ensure that no child who is not in the program cannot see any program materials. The district would have to ensure that, if a classroom is used for both human sexuality and another subject, no materials from the human sexuality program could be seen. Additionally, the district would have to find a way to keep students in the program from sharing anything from the program with others. This would be impossible to enforce.

KNEA opposes this bill and believes school districts and boards will make the appropriate decisions for their own communities.

Ways and Means Takes Up Masterson Equity Bill

The Senate Ways and Means Committee today held a hearing on SB 512, Senator Masterson’s (R-Andover) bill intended to address the equity ruling of the Kansas Supreme Court.

While the bill shares some similarities to the Ryckman bill (HB 2731) heard in the House yesterday, it differs in one pretty significant way. Both bills return to the equity formula provisions in place before passage of the block grant bill (SB 7) and both bills repeal the extraordinary needs fund in order to find some money for fix. But while the House Bill looks to spend an additional $23 million, the Senate Bill simply rearranges some existing school funding to bridge the gap between the $17 million from the extraordinary needs fund and the actual cost of restoring equity.

Dave Trabert of the Kansas Policy Institute expressed some support for the Senate Bill because it provides no additional funding to schools.

Problems with both bills are that 1) they eliminated the extraordinary needs fund which is the only place districts can go in the event of large changes in property values or student demographics/enrollment and 2) they create winners and losers, something that is especially problematic at a time when schools have been flat funded.

And while the block grant would allegedly let schools know what they would get in funding for its duration, they would actually cut funding to some districts. One also wonders what impact the elimination of the extraordinary needs fund would have on the adequacy case still pending in the Courts.

No action has been taken as of yet on either bill.

Bond & Interest Review Panel Bill in Senate

The bill creating the Bond and Interest Review Panel was taken up once again in the Senate Education Committee today. Senate Bill 356 as introduced was very similar to House Bill 2456, worked in the House Education Committee yesterday.

While the bill was up to be worked today in Committee, no action was yet taken. Senator Molly Baumgardner (R-Louisburg) has proposed an amendment to the bill changing the review panel structure which has been floating in committee since the bill was first debated. And today, Senator Vickie Schmidt (R-Topeka) has offered to amend the bill to match the changes made yesterday to HB 2456 with the Trimmer and Bradford amendments.

The Senate Committee will need to return to the bill later to determine which way to go.

Education Budget Committee Considers Procurement Restrictions for Schools

The House Education Budget Committee today is discussing HB 2729, a bill crafted based on a recommendation from the Alvarez and Marsal Efficiency Study.

The first section of the bill would require school districts to make purchases through the Department of Administration’s Procurement List. This list is agreements for bulk purchasing that saves the state money.

The bill provides a few exceptions the requirement:

  • Such items or services may be procured locally in an amount within 1% of total procurement cost of the amount the department is able to procure the same items or services;
  • such items or services may be procured through an education service center;
  • (such board of education determines in writing that such items have a material quality difference that would negatively impact student performance or outcomes as long as the secretary agrees with such determination in writing; or
  • prior to July 1, 2018, a contract for the procurement of such items or services in existence on July 1, 2016, is still in existence.

There is concern in school districts with a provision in section 2 that would make the above apply to the purchase of any services over $20,000. There are services that a district might purchase that cost over $20,000 such as attorney representation that, under current law, would be exempt from the standard bid procedure. Current law requires bidding and the selection of the lowest bid for “construction, reconstruction or remodeling or for the purchase of materials, goods or wares…” It specifically exempts services.

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Senate Approves Budget; Looming Deadline; KPERS

Feb 12, 2016 by

Senate Approves Budget; On to Conference

The House approved their version of the budget on Thursday morning, the Senate did so Thursday night.

The House budget includes the delay in payments to KPERS with “promises” to pay the money back next year. On a motion of Rep. Johnson (R-Asaria), the House amended the KPERS provision to require the payback in the first quarter of the next fiscal year with 8% interest. The Senate, on the other hand, removed the delay of KPERS funding requiring the state to go ahead and fund KPERS as scheduled.

Both chambers also ignored the Supreme Court decision on school funding equity that came out Thursday morning. The Court decision found SB 7 (block grants) to be unconstitutional in that it does not provide for equity. There had been some thought that votes on the budget would be postponed. A motion to refer the budget back to committee failed on the House floor.

We will now be interested in seeing how the Legislature plans to respond to the Court’s ruling.

The roll call vote on the budget in the Senate (HB 2365) is as follows:

YEA: Abrams, Arpke, Bowers, Bruce, Denning, Donovan, Fitzgerald, Holmes, Kerschen, King, Knox, Love, Lynn, Masterson, Melcher, O’Donnell, Olson, Ostmeyer, Petersen, Pilcher-Cook, Powell, Smith, Wagle, and Wilborn.

NAY: Baumgardner, Faust-Goudeau, Francisco, Haley, Hawk, Hensley, Holland, Kelly, LaTurner, Longbine, Pettey, Pyle, V. Schmidt, Tyson, and Wolf.

McGinn was absent.

The June 30 Deadline Looms!

You’ve been reading that the Supreme Court has given the Legislature until June 30 to address the equity issues in school funding. Yet to be decided is whether or not overall funding is adequate.

The Court clearly said that if the order is not addressed by that date, then schools would be closed because the state would be prohibited from providing funding in an unconstitutional manner.

This order has led to plenty of posturing and chest-pounding on the part of some in the Legislature.

But we are confident that, when the dust settles, the Legislature will get back to work and address the situation. There is still plenty of time between now and June 30 for the Legislature to take the appropriate action and that is our expectation. No one on either side of the aisle and of any ideology really wants schools to close. KNEA, along with all other advocates for the education of Kansas kids will be working in any way we can to keep the process moving forward until a reasonable solution is found.

KPERS Capers

The House Pension Committee has been quite busy the last couple of days. First during Wednesday’s regularly meeting they heard testimony regarding HB 2542 known as the COLA bill. There were 5 proponents and no opponents nor was there any neutral testimony regarding the bill. There was some spirited discussion during the testimony, but in the end we would be surprised if the committee works the bill.  During yesterday’s questions and statements legislators expressed sympathy, but also asserted that there is no money to support such an effort. Given those statements from the legislators yesterday and the ruling against the state by the Supreme Court regarding the equity portion of the Gannon Case which puts the state’s budget in turmoil, we do not believe there is much hope for the bill.

After the regular committee meeting the subcommittee on Working after Retirement (WAR) met. They discussed certain aspects of WAR regulations during a brief meeting. The subcommittee met again today to begin finalizing recommendations to a bill modifying the WAR regulations.

The subcommittee is considering the following WAR recommendations for submission to the House Pensions Committee:

Using one bill to put together HB 2656, HB 2654, and HB 2653 with balloons that address the discussions of the subcommittee. HB 2656 is Rep. Trimmers bill regarding working until 62 at which time a person would be able to choose WAR options that resemble the regulations that recently sunset. HB 2654 addresses nurses and WAR. HB 2653 addresses grandfathering in folks into WAR for 2 more years, grant the hardship cases a 3 year extension rather than a year by year extension. Next they also discussed that the hardship cases not go through the legislative committee for approval.

Consideration of how to implement Representative Edmonds’ request for a signed document declaring that no previous discussions had occurred for a position that a person applies for under WAR regulations. The document would be signed by the employee and in the case of school districts the board president.





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Supreme Court Issues Equity Ruling in Gannon!

Feb 11, 2016 by

Supreme Court Issues Equity Ruling in Gannon!

In an opinion issued at 9:30 this morning, the Kansas Supreme Court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs in the equity portion of the Gannon School Finance Lawsuit.

The Court upheld the lower court’s ruling that found the block grant school funding scheme (SB 7) violated the equity provisions that once provided state aid for capital outlay and local option budgets.

The Court gives the legislature until the end of the fiscal year (June 30, 2016) to solve the issue suggesting that they could do so via a new formula or by restoring the equity provisions of the prior school finance formula within the block grant.

The Court asserted that the constitution represented the will of the people and as such had to be respected by the legislature. The Court said that while the legislature has the responsibility to pass laws and appropriate funds, the Courts exist to ensure that the will of the people as expressed in the constitution is paramount. Article 6 of the Kansas Constitution deals specifically with public education.

While the lower court had ruled SB 7 unconstitutional, the Supreme Court issued a stay of that court’s order to overturn SB 7. In this decision that stay is not lifted. Schools will continue to be funded for the 2015-16 school year under the block grant program while the legislature is given the opportunity to restore equity to the funding of schools.

Your questions answered:

Is my job in jeopardy?

Your job is secure. The Court’s decision does not negatively impact school districts’ ability to meet their contractual obligations for the 2015-16 school year.

When will the legislature decide?

The Legislature has been given a deadline of June 30, 2016 to restore equity to school funding. We would expect there to be a brief time in the session for statements and positioning before they get to work on the issue. We are not yet half way through the 2016 legislative session, so they have time to get this done.

How much money are we talking about?

The equity portion would cost approximately $50 million.

Where will that money come from?

This is the most difficult question to answer. The Governor’s reckless tax policies have bankrupted the state treasury and right now there appears to be little interest in restoring the state’s revenue stream. It is hard to imagine a way to fund this requirement without directly harming some other critical part of the state budget. The legislature has nearly drained the highway fund and the budget bill advanced by the House yesterday delays payments to KPERS to keep it balanced. One would hope the legislature would address the fact that they have exempted over 300,000 Kansas businesses from paying income taxes entirely.

Does this have an impact on bargaining?

It could if the issue is resolved quickly. If not, districts will be left wondering how much money they will ultimately get for the next school year.

What does the June 30 deadline mean?

It means that the Legislature must make a decision that is acceptable to the Court. The decision should not wait until that day since the Court will review the remedy and determine if it is constitutional.

If they fix this, is the Gannon case finally resolved?

No. There is a second part to the case that has yet to be argued. The Court will consider adequacy at a later date.

The decision, while long, makes for very interesting reading. You can read all 80 pages for yourself by clicking here.

Kansas NEA will continue to maintain an active presence as the state’s largest professional association of educators. We will continually review developments in this case in order to provide reasoned analysis on behalf of our members. 

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